Online Security for Cops

I know we're all proud of our vocation. We want to show pride, professionalism and sometimes a little of bravado. Just keep it off the 'net!

Author Bio Harvey 1 Headshot

Photo: The Daring LibrarianPhoto: The Daring Librarian

I know this has been drilled into your heads from all directions. You should be nearly senseless by now on the topic of cyber security. Well, it's not working yet, so here's my spin and diatribe on the matter. I know we're all proud of our vocation. We want to show pride, professionalism and sometimes a little of bravado. Just keep it off the 'net! This is more than social media; it's the entire arena.

I receive e-mail from cops all over the country, and I read every one of them. Your e-mail addresses are killing me. If you can't make an e-mail address without using a "takin' the garbage out" phrase, big phallic symbol, or "kill 'em all and let God sort'em out" name, try something unusual like your initials. Sooner or later, your private e-mail will fall into the hands of some lawyer representing a creep. In court, you will have to explain why you're referred to as

Most good departments who perform a thorough background investigation demand disclosure on all e-mail and social media. So, if you really want this job, please consider professionalism before bravado. Don't be surprised if you have to close an account or sign a social-media agreement with conditions of employment. This problem is assailing professional law enforcement; the youngest generation needs to start the clean-up and set new standards.

One young officer posted the exploits of his recent night shift on his social media account. He even gave hints about who he arrested for DUI. When the young lad was corrected on this matter, he gave the immediate response of "nobody told me about this." First of all, get real and act like a grown up. You're a cop, and you make deductive decisions in the normal course of duty.

You know your agency's policies about releasing information on criminal activities. You have media policy and maybe a public information office (PIO). How could you think your disclosure of nocturnal adventures wouldn't fall under the umbrella of these policies? Get smart.

I was recently contacted by an attorney about the disclosure of serious accident scene photography. Of course, the barrister wanted the evidence to establish his client's defense. What had occurred was there was some social media posting of this gnarly accident scene. Long story short, it was posted by a blue-light chaser wannabe and not a real copper. This was great for the good guys but a career stopper for the aspiring cop. His actions jeopardized his employability.

Also, posting on your media site that you're on the night for a month is an operational security faux pas. You've broadcast to the bad guys that you're not home at night and they may break in and terrorize your loved ones. If you're going to use any form of social media, take the security to the highest level. Restrict what's viewed, as well as what you post.

We've been trying to achieve professionalism. Just when we get close, some nuance sets the good team back a step. Be smart and think what you post, type, or text!

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